Friday, 27 March 2015

Architecture is...

According to the Dictionary,  the definition of Architecture is,

Architecture (noun)
  • The profession of designing buildings, open areas, communities, and other artificial construction environments, usually with some regard to aesthetic effect.  Architecture often includes design or selection of furnishings and decorations, supervision of construction work, and the examination, restoration, or re-modelling of existing buildings.
  • The character or style of a building
  • The action or process of building; construction
  • The result or product of architectural work, as a building
  • Buildings collectively
  • A fundamental underlying design of computer hardware, software, or both
  • The structure of anything, e.g. the architecture of a novel
which was obviously written by a non-architect.

There's a lot more to it than that.  Having to explain Architecture to a class of 10 year olds, I really need a single line definition which sparks the imagination.  Our sequence of workshops helps to create a feel for the profession:
  • Imagining ideas to address design requirements
  • Investigating design with structures, drawing, materials and models
  • Creating exciting, meaningful and responsive environments
  • Building at full scale
Architecture is involved with everything in our lives, our societies and our existence as humans.  Eva Jirikna points this out.  

As Architects, our working relationships with others is key.  Jan Knippers noted that historically Engineers were referred to as a 'clever person' and Architects as 'someone who knows how to put it together'.   Architects like to think of themselves as designers / creators.  In practice, coordination plays a big part of day to day work.  Architects usually work with Structural and Service Engineers and Cost Consultants, but there's a set of skills involved which can just as easily be used with other specialists to be innovative with different kinds of projects.  

Anthony Hudson refers to the importance of having an open mind in his book of his work.

Sophie Abrahams' web site Architecture Is sets out to convey the diverse nature of this subject with a patchwork of definitions which combining to illustrate the aubject.

Many people don't really know what an Architect does.  I've heard someone saying 'an Architect is a kind of Surveyor'.  And several architects are not completely sure what an Architect does either.

In college we came to the conclusion that Architectural education was a process of stripping away everything we thought we knew about the world, until we knew absolutely nothing about everything.  It sounds contradictory to a learning process but there is a balance and potentially sensitive understanding to an approach to the world as a result.

Architecture is an activity which involves just about everything, either in terms of design approach or coordination.  For me, the key areas of activity might be boiled down to:
  • Ontological and metaphysical references  
  • Spacial design 
  • Technical coordination of structural, environmental and budget requirements
  • Social responsibility
  • Innovation, experimentation and influence of change
  • Practicalities of prefabrication, construction and logistics 
  • Joy 
So, when I'm working with a class of 10 year olds, and they ask what Architecture is, the answer I give is 'lets experiment and find out...'

Let me know if I've missed anything out.  Architecture is a very fluid subject.  Your comments welcome.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

A Brave New World

3d printing manufacturers are making great steps developing appliances for industry, office and home use.  The 3D printing revolution is well on the way and it will not be long before we see it as an extension to BIM.  Businesses could carry 3d printers as part of their service plant to directly print out replacement parts or whole components required for building maintenance.  Digital models for these parts being kept within BIM O&M files.

In home use the possibilities seem endless with the aspiration to model and print just about any component or part required, either as a replacement or as an upgrade to our existing life styles.  Home use printers are already handling multiple materials and producing integrated, articulated and  working products with ease already, with micron precision.

Lots of wonderful items being produced for the home...
Garlic press

The draw on this is that consumers will be able to directly download and print their own designer items.  Alternatively proprietary designs could be hacked them to meet different or extended functions.  In the same way that we have become more computer savvy, soon we could be routinely designing and producing our own individual creations.  

The 3D revolution is being sold with the promise of environmental benefits too.  Shipping base materials is cheaper than shipping finished components, which take up more space in transit. Material cartridges can produce several items, saving on numbers if shipments made or sizes of vehicles needed to transport them might be smaller.  In addition it could also reduce the number of distribution centres and warehouses, if generic printing materials can produce items otherwise created in different locations.  3D printer manufacturers are championing recycling services where waste material can be regenerated, but this will no doubt lead to more localised recycling processes, if not by the 3D printers themselves.

3D printing represents a fully integrated single stage fabrication system which can be achieved in the present, eliminating remote manufacturing restrictions and lead-in times.  It enables essential items to be created in logistically difficult to reach locations.  3D printed components designed to integrate structural, service and aesthetic requirements can potentially be lighter, economising on material usage.  

3D printed monocoque car chassis
Single item responding to structural, environmental and aesthetic design requirements.

The advance of 3D printing begs the question, how will design copyright be managed in the future.  Will 3D printing have a significant impact on designed goods, in the same way that streamed music has impacted the revenues of music producers?  3D printing manufacturers use the term open source as buzz words to sell their systems with seemingly unlimited access to design possibilities, but it will not be long before industry giants realise they might be missing out on a key revenue stream and want part of the action.  I'm sure the 3D printing revolution will eventually become locked down and regulated in the same way as the internet, but the form it takes will in part depend on how quickly 3D printing can develop as a subculture, and in part by business entrepreneurs identifying how 3D printing can enhance our lives and developing the offer.

There's a brave new world coming - or at least that's the aspiration.  The possibilities are enormous but its going to take some work.  Current 3D printers are becoming ever more technically advanced, but compared to the computers of today, 3D printers are currently more akin to the VIC 20 or ZX81.  Compared to the internet and its impact on our everyday lives and social media, 3D printing has some way to go before it makes a cultural revolution and paradigm shift.  Current printers can be unpredictable, take some getting used to and can quite happily make their own individual works. As the proud owner of a Cube 3, I sometimes my relationship with the machine is a personal one, requiring TLC and understanding chats.  Explosions on the 3D printing plate can easily happen if the machine decides to play Buckaroo.  Its early days but these messy beginnings will eventually change the way we live and work.

When 3D printing goes wrong
Its like something out of a SciFi horror like the Thing or Invasion of the Body Snatchers, when the translation of the body malfunctions.

In 30 years time the Cube 3 might be sitting in a glass cabinet in the Science Museum next to the VIC 20.  By then, much of the gallery's fit-out might have been 3D printed.  Join the revolution - buy a 3D printer!